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Phoenix Checkered and Black Flags

Pete Pistone looks at some of the ups and downs from the second weekend of NASCAR Goes West at ISM Raceway.

Checkered Flags

Kevin Harvick
Harvick was a man on a mission Sunday in Phoenix and delivered in a big way. His third straight win came after a week of controversy surrounding last week’s Las Vegas penalties. Harvick also continued his mastery of ISM Raceway with his ninth career Cup win and in the process silenced his doubters. Race Story and Results

Chase Elliott
The first top-five finish for Hendrick Motorsports came with Elliott’s third-place performance. He has also enjoyed success in Phoenix with top-10 finishes in five career Cup starts at the track.

Stewart-Haas Racing
Harvick led a parade of SHR cars inside the top 10 with teammates Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch also inside the first 10 finishers. It marked the first time in the organization’s history all four of its cars scored top-10 finishes and it continued an incredibly strong start to the season for SHR.

Joe Gibbs Racing
It was also an extraordinary day for JGR on Sunday with all four of the team’s drivers also finishing inside the top 10. Kyle Busch led a race-high 138 laps to finish second behind Harvick while teammates Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez also came home in the day’s first 10 across the finish line.

Race Pace
Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 was the perfect length for a NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. The checkered flag flew just under three hours from the green flag with a pace of race that included a great deal of intensity and immediacy. There was no riding around, no “making laps” by drivers who had to get to the front in a hurry. More tracks should take note of how races at Phoenix generate good competition while satisfying fans in a timely manner.

Black Flags

Team Penske
An atypical rough day for the Penske group with Brad Keselowski the best of the bunch in 15th place. Ryan Blaney (16th) and Joey Logano (19th) weren’t factors in a day that was a struggle for the usually potent trio.

Chip Ganassi Racing
Things weren’t much better for CGR. Kyle Larson started outside the front row but that was the highlight of his day. After leading laps early, he spun out later and finished a dismal 18th. Jamie McMurray also had a good qualifying effort of eighth but battled issues all day long and his day ended with a 26th-place performance.

Paul Menard
It’s been a good start to 2018 for Menard and his migration to the Wood Brothers. Until Sunday that is when something appeared to break on his No. 21 Ford sending Menard spinning and finally into the wall.

Bubba Wallace
Another tough afternoon for Wallace that wasn’t helped by a pair of pit road miscues from his Richard Petty Motorsports team. Even trying to rap on his in-car radio (much to the chagrin of crew chief Drew Blickensderfer) wasn’t enough to stop a 28th-place finish for Wallace.

Weather
Rain? Really? In the desert? Saturday’s Xfinity Series race was actually stopped by a red flag for rain that swept into the area.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.